I used to be so afraid of rejection that I’d rather let go of a goal or vision than hear the word, “no”. On closer examination, most of my requests have been granted, but asking still doesn’t come easily. Consider the acronym for fear, which is at the root of my resistance: False Evidence Appearing Real. I fabricate reasons why so-and-so would never want to help me out. My name is Jane, and I make things up.
In building my new art business this past year (plus), I jotted down several occasions where I reached out for help in spite of my doubts. The twist here is that the ask-ee is invariably delighted to hear the appeal and be of service. I know I am thrilled to receive an inquiry for something I’m able to contribute, but I don’t automatically think it works in reverse.
During one of my fellowship meetings there is a round robin where each person states two action steps they’ve taken that week on behalf of their work. It’s an inspiring 15-20 minutes hearing about grants applications completed, contracts signed, vacations taken, chapters written, etc.
One man’s actions regularly caught my attention as he talked about his evolving passion for painting. Though we’d never had a private conversation, we were known to each other through the group. I texted him, Hawmi Guillebeaux, last September to ask if he might be my Arts Action Partner. I loved his energy, enthusiasm and humility about the art he was pursuing. Somehow a texted no wouldn’t hurt that much.
But, he said “yes”, and we’ve been comparing notes every Monday night for almost a year now. Each of us takes 7 minutes to describe our week using creativity as the perspective. The listener gives feedback for 3 minutes; then we reverse roles. What frequently happens is that the one sticking point I mention is addressed and aided by his experience, reflection or suggestion. He’s many years younger, knows MUCH more about Instagram than I do, and encourages me mightily in that direction. When I was ready to send off a completed pillow and kinda wanted to simply shove it into a UPS box with brown paper, he asked me a simple question. “How about you pretend that you’re shipping it to God?”
Phew! Changed everything! I honored his suggestion, contemplated how best to wrap this special order and gave it my all-time best effort. What a difference a simple question can make!
I asked another friend if she would construct the pillows for me as I don’t own a sewing machine. She happily agreed and heaped praise on each item I brought her. A dear acquaintance in Connecticut mentioned having beads, buttons and bric-a-brac, and I invited her to share them with me, which she did. Every time I use a particular metal button, I think of Jen.
Customer service reps are easier to ask questions of, including the kind person at Vistaprint who helped me get my new business cards right. The term ‘suffering in silence’ used to be my M.O., but I think of the results I want and move past that victim-y place.
Although she wasn’t able to say yes, I called a friend in Connecticut to see if she’d work on a video of me as an artist. I loved her work with a mutual friend, but the timing wasn’t right. Turns out, I’m just now working on a simple video and the timing is perfect.That rejection didn’t even hurt. It’s the anticipation of the refusal and what I invent for the reason that create the negative feelings I have around asking.
It doesn’t get easier to ask, but repetition does reduce the odds of denial.
My mission: Inspiring others, particularly women, to no longer apologize for who they are, their appetites and their desire to express themselves.